O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold

Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,

And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.

Alleluia!  Alleluia!

“For All the Saints” (hymn)

To build on yesterday’s post, let’s consider our heroes, the New Orleans Saints.  They’ve had one logo since their founding in the 1960s, and if you were wondering if a football team could have a classy, elegant, and meaningful symbol representing them, well, look no further.  I actually don’t think there’s anything quite like the Saints’ fleur-de-lis when it comes to football logos.

Sail as far as you want. You won't find a better logo.

Perhaps we should start with the name itself.  NFL team names mostly break down into a couple of discrete categories.

Animals: Ravens, Bengals, Bears, Lions, Colts, Jaguars, Falcons, Panthers, Dolphins, Eagles, Broncos, Cardinals (although apparently they were originally named for the color of the hand-me-down U. Chicago jerseys they wore), Seahawks, Rams.

Groups of Dudes: Steelers, Packers, Vikings, Texans, Saints, Buccaneers, Patriots, Cowboys, Redskins, Chiefs, Raiders, 49ers.  Subgroup of Mythological Dudes: Titans, Giants.

Individual Dudes: Buffalo Bills (although they use a bison as their mascot, which makes them kinda Animals), Cleveland (Paul) Browns.

Technoteams: Jets, Chargers (apparently they were named for the holler “Charge!” but when you take a lightning bolt for your logo, you become a technoteam in my book).

Many of the animals don’t have a heck of a lot to do with the locales they’re in, with the Baltimore Ravens probably being the coolest exception.  While a lot of the Dude Groups are simply based on aggression, couple of the professions (Packers, Steelers, 49ers, to a lesser extent Vikings) are really closely tied to their cities and therefore pretty idiosyncratic, which I like.

Saints falls into that category too, for a couple of reasons.  It’s not that New Orleanians are saints, by any means.  But it is a very Catholic town from its very beginning.  It’s the second-oldest Roman Catholic diocese in the States, behind Baltimore, and the first Mass on Louisiana soil was celebrated at the end of the 17th century.  Catholics, as you may know, are pretty obsessed with their saints.  We get named for ’em at birth, then again later, and there are tons to go around (Me = Christopher + James + Aloysius).  November 1st, All Saints Day, celebrates everybody up in Heaven, and it’s traditionally celebrated in N.O. by visiting those impressive necropolis-style cemeteries and leaving some flowers for your people.  It’s also the day that the Saints were announced as an expansion team in 1966.

On top of that, the name also celebrates New Orleans jazz (but not by naming them the New Orleans Jazz; that was the basketball team).  When you already have a song like “When the Saints Go Marching In” at your disposal (that one’s by the fellow they named the airport after), the team name’s basically prepackaged.

Just as the team name  pulls together a couple of disparate threads, the fleur-de-lis goes beyond the average symbol.  For our Animal and Dude teams, the logos are generally pretty straightforward cartoon beasts or Dudes.  Sometimes you’ll get a letter.  Which gets the job done, but isn’t terribly…deep, if I can use that word.

The fleur-de-lis is special because it’s also the symbol of New Orleans itself, and since 2008, the entire state of Louisiana.  The only other NFL logo like it, borrowing from the local flag, is Tennessee’s, and they had to turn it into a freakin’ monster truck.

The Saints don’t need a cartoon (although the one they have is rad).  They do straight-up heraldry.  They participate in a tradition that encompasses the Bourbon dynasty of France, Spain, and Luxembourg; Florence; Quebec; Bosnia and Herzegovina; and the Virgin Mary herself (whose prompt succor saved the city multiple times, as depicted in St. Louis Cathedral).

Moreover, keep in mind that these men in black are essentially wearing flowers on their hats!  That is Boy Named Sue territory.  They have to get tough or die!

Speaking of team names, the other great thing about this Saints – Vikings matchup is that it’s opponents you can really imagine fighting it out.  Shoot, saints and cardinals got along pretty well.  Sometimes they’re even the same.  But saints and vikings were a real match.  Well, a one-sided match, in most cases.  Just ask poor St. Edmund the Martyr.  They turned him into a hedgehog with their arrows.  But here’s the thing; read all the way to the end.  They get theirs in the end, and I don’t imagine they’re singing in the heavenly choir after that.

The Saints are the best 4th-quarter team in the league this year, by quite a bit.  Unexpected comebacks have become a specialty.  Coincidence?  When saints are involved, there aren’t coincidences.  There are miracles.

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7 Comments

  1. mordicai said,

    January 22, 2010 at 5:31 am

    DETH 2 TEH RAVENS. I am led to believe that since I hark from the Wastelands once upon a time, & Baltimore stole our football team (note: BALTIMORE is more economically solvent than Cleveland..) & then had the gall to win a Super Bowl that they are the ENEMY.

    • January 22, 2010 at 10:23 am

      ‘Tis true! Sports relocations, I have to imagine, are about the best way we have of understanding the mindset of medieval Italy. It would be amazing if the folks of Baltimore (who lost their team to Indy) went crusading for revenge, only to be ambushed on the way by rabid Clevelanders.

      For the Saints, that city was almost San Antonio. After Katrina, the Saints spent the year there, and their sleazy mayor wooed the team rull hard. I do not know if San Antonio would be standing if that had happened.

      And the Hornets went to Oklahoma City for a year, which indirectly led to Seattle losing their team when OKC showed what a good basketball town it was…

  2. Meggy said,

    January 22, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Love this post.

    • January 22, 2010 at 10:24 am

      Why thank you. It just occurred to me, and may interest you, that the Saints also offer the only team name with gender balance (except mebbe Texans)! Not only is there a flower/symbol of the Virgin on their sleeve, but many of, if not most of, the best saints are girls! Including the city’s favorite, Joan of Arc.

  3. Ryan said,

    January 22, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    We have the classiest team (and the least classy fans). I love my city.

  4. February 6, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    […] recap: a servant of not one but two fleurs-de-lis (if you recall my post of a couple weeks back), in a highly untenable situation, is sent a fully […]


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